The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in their Chicago Conference last week, developed and forwarded three resolutions to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly which convenes this August.
The third of the three resolutions urges that the Church's policy prohibiting the ordination of openly homosexual men and women be waived. The recommendation has to be accepted by two thirds of the voting members at the Churchwide Assembly in order to become church policy.
It's hard to say how the assembly will vote. The voting members who will attend the Assembly are often people who seek appointment because they are politically active, and the politically active, for better or worse, tend to be liberal, and liberals in the church, as elsewhere, tend to favor proposals such as these.
One thing of which I feel somewhat sure is that the vast majority of Lutherans would prefer to keep the policy on gays in the clergy the way it has been since the 16th century. Most Lutherans are pretty conservative folks and they have a hard time reconciling the acceptance of openly gay pastors living in unmarried sexual relationships with what they read in their Bibles about homosexuality.
If the Assembly does choose to accept the Council's recommendation two things will probably happen. The severe shortfall of ordained ministers in the ELCA will be temporarily mitigated by an influx of homosexual applicants, and, secondly, the ongoing decline in churchwide membership will accelerate as many Lutherans will simply take their families to the more conservative and traditional non-denominational church down the street.
The leadership of the ELCA surely understands this, but for reasons of political expediency they prefer not to take a firm stand against the ordination of gays. Indeed, almost everyone whose desk the issue crosses recommends that the prohibition against gay ordination be relaxed. Perhaps they each hope that the buck can be passed to the Churchwide Assembly where the whole matter will be tabled for a couple more years.
If so, they're playing a dangerous game. They have the accelerator pressed to the floor and the car is heading for the cliff. We'll see in August how well the brakes work.